Brendan Rodgers' Tinkering Helps Leicester End Poor Run Against Crystal Palace

04 July 2020 05:46

Leicester fans had been crying out for a change of approach recently and Brendan Rodgers obliged against Crystal Palace, lining up the Foxes in a ludicrously fluid 3-4-1-2 formation. It's a system that the Northern Irishman has experimented with this season to varying degrees of success.

A similar tactical plan garnered a victory against Newcastle over Christmas but also led to defeats to Manchester City and more disappointingly, a two legged elimination from the Carabao Cup at the hands of Aston Villa.

Against the Eagles however, the personnel deployed was rather different to those utilised during Rodgers' previous flirtations with a back three.

The Foxes' defensive line was comprised of Caglar Soyuncu, Jonny Evans and surprisingly, James Justin, who was preferred to Christian Fuchs and loanee Ryan Bennett on the right side of the trio. Ben Chilwell took care of the left-wing berth with Marc Albrighton his opposite number on the right. In midfield, Wilfred Ndidi and Youri Tielemans formed the pivot with Ayoze Perez playing in the hole behind Kelechi Iheanacho and Jamie Vardy.

That's what the Leicester team looked like on paper anyway. The truth was a lot more complicated.

Throughout the opening 45 minutes the Foxes' tactical shape mutated with a fluidity that has been lacking in recent games. At times, Justin pushed up like a full-back. On other occasions, Iheanacho, Tielemans and Perez would interchange at will. It was a bit of a free-for-all to be honest, but a massively entertaining watch nonetheless.

It was also effective.

Iheanacho was an accurate Vardy pass away from giving his side the lead early on, while Justin also slammed a fierce strike into the post. Leicester generally looked more dangerous. The hopeful but ultimately hopeless crosses that have placated Rodgers' side performances post-shutdown were absent, substituted for neat interchanges in central areas.

Iheanacho deserves massive credit for this. Once dismissed as an out-and-out poacher during his 'come on in the 80th minute and score the fourth goal in a 5-0 win' era at Manchester City, the Nigerian has reinvented himself this season as a fantastic deep-lying forward.

In the first half, Iheanacho was popping up in pockets of space all around the pitch. linking with him teammates superbly.

He got his reward for this fine work early on in the second half, latching onto the end of Youri Tielemans ball and making no mistake with the finish.

It may prove to be one of the biggest moments in Leicester's season. After the goal the Foxes looked relieved and comfortable in possession, sacrificing the manic fluidity witnessed in the first period for a more structured shape that helped them control the game.

Bennett's introduction as a more traditional centre-half certainly helped as did Fuchs' arrival who continues to amaze with how well he looks for a squad player well into his 30s.

This new found control of the contest set the stage for a Vardy party, the likes of which has not been seen for months in the east Midlands. It was fitting that on a day in which pubs reopened across the country, except Leicester which remains in a localised shutdown, Vardy made sure that his city was not left out of the merriment with a fine and much needed second half brace.

The strikes finally brought up his century of goals and the relief on his face when his first hit the back of the net was palpable, just as the manic celebrations that followed were indicative of a squad still desperate to fight for a place among the European elite next season.

All in all, it was an immaculate day at the office for Rodgers' side. And it was made possible by the intelligent tinkering of the former Liverpool boss who again looks like he might be able to test his managerial nous in the Champions League later this year.

Dilly ding, dilly dong.


Source: 90min